It’s Time to Order the Turkey

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun. Take a few minutes to make a plan and decide which recipes you’ll be making this year.

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By Melissa Clark

Egad, it’s November — let the countdown to Thanksgiving begin!

The first item on your to-do list should be to order the turkey if you haven’t already done so. Remember that if you are getting a frozen turkey, you’ll need a day for every four pounds to defrost it safely in the fridge. That 16-pounder will take four days. Procrastinators, set a reminder on your phones now!

While you’re ordering things, now is also a good time to procure any special equipment, table linens, wine or hard-to-find ingredients you may need (say, a meat thermometer and large platter for the turkey or some citric acid for Eric Kim’s fetchingly wobbly and rubescent cranberry jelly salad). You’ll also need to get your pie and cake orders in if you’re not making them yourself. Oh, planning is fun! Don’t you love crossing things off your list?

I actually roasted a turkey earlier this week. It was for a story about leftovers that I’m working on, and I needed the bird in a hurry so I could turn the carcass into all manner of soups (coming to you soon).

I’m happy to report that my recipe for splayed roasted turkey with herbs still works the old magic. Splaying — in which poultry legs are pulled out from the body to allow for faster roasting — is far easier than spatchcocking (above) and almost as speedy. I got an 11-pound bird to bronzed perfection in under an hour and a half. We have many more Thanksgiving recipe ideas waiting for you here, and plenty of tips here. Also, did you know that Sam Sifton wrote an entire Thanksgiving cookbook? Check that out if you have a chance.

And keep checking back here over the next two weeks, because we’ll be sharing our newest Thanksgiving menus, recipes and videos, and this year’s line up is truly thrilling! Sam will give you the rundown on Friday, complete with a snazzy video trailer of what’s on deck.

There are a lot of meals between now and Thanksgiving though, and you couldn’t do better than making Zainab Shah’s fragrant sheet-pan fish tikka with spinach one of them. It’s such a smart recipe. The fish cubes are coated in a spiced yogurt with garlic and ginger, and then roasted on a bed of baby spinach, which wilts in the oven’s heat. If you want to take it up a notch, you can make your own garam masala for the yogurt mixture. Serve it with creamy coconut rice for added richness or with a nice pot of fluffy plain rice for something simpler.

Not in the mood for fish? How about Nik Sharma’s brilliant chicken koftas with tangy lime couscous? You can whirl all the kofta ingredients together in a food processor, so this highly flavored dish comes together in under 30 minutes. Or there’s Yewande Komolafe’s fiery carne adobada, seared steak marinated in guajillo chiles, served with a roasted pepper-shallot relish. Round either of these out with a cool cucumber salad dressed in buttermilk to get your veggies in.

Then for dessert, Sohla el-Waylly has a new recipe for jammy pecan linzer bars with an easy pat-in-the-pan crust. Or Claudia Roden’s citrus-scented Turkish yogurt cake, which is both light and creamy, and not at all hard to make.

You do need a subscription to get the recipes. If you haven’t subscribed yet, do it now while you’re ordering your turkey. You can also find us on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, where you can learn how to make Genevieve Ko’s spectacular cranberry lemon bars, a favorite in our house. That recipe alone is worth the price of admission.

Speaking of turkeys, the bird has a long and often embellished history. Ben Franklin is rumored to have lobbied for the turkey, a “much more respectable Bird” than the “lazy” bald eagle, to become America’s national symbol (he didn’t). Henry VIII is famously remembered gobbling huge turkey legs (not true at all). A native of North America, the turkey was called all sorts of names by Europeans after it was brought over from the Americas in the middle of the 16th century.

In this vein, here’s a recipe for pumpkins with turkey from Apicius, a chef who lived in first-century Rome. Now, it’s true that Romans had neither turkeys nor pumpkins, and the recipe is probably more accurately translated as sautéed gourd with fowl. But it looks tasty, and I’m absolutely certain it’s how the ancient Romans celebrated Thanksgiving.

Sam is here on Friday. I’ll see you next week.

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